Over 100 children from Toluwani, Otto-Ilogbo, Ife-oluwa, Ottumara and Ilaje communities attended the annual party held on Christmas day in Ebute-Metta, Lagos for children living in the informal settlements. Spaces for Change |S4C and Communities Alliance Against Displacement (CAD) organize the event every year to foster inclusion and make young ones living in underserved communities feel loved and remembered during the season of Christmas. The annual Christmas party has always offered a platform for children to add their voices to the two organization’s campaigns for housing justice for slum-dwellers and residents of Lagos’ informal communities.
As has been the tradition in the annual Christmas parties, the children used poetry and drama to raise awareness of social and economic deprivation that they face in their communities. Informal communities in Lagos are densely-populated, lack access to basic amenities, especially sanitation and water. Because these communities are often targeted for demolitions, children have their education constantly disrupted, while many drop out of school. Businesses destroyed during demolitions mean that parents can no longer pay their school fees and cater to their daily needs.
The artistic renditions by the children highlighted the shortcomings of urban laws which neither adequately protect nor work for the poor. Due to a shortage of affordable housing, prohibitive land values and high rental costs, more than half of Lagos’s urban population lives in slums and informal settlements. Inhabitants of informal settlements lack security of tenure and are consequently, subjected to unlawful eviction and displacement conducted under the banner of urban renewal. Forced displacement and social marginalization disproportionately affect women and children living in these informal settlements. They are more susceptible to poverty, have a higher risk of contracting fatal illnesses, and are more prone to becoming the target of abuse and exploitation.
Exhibition platforms stationed on the sidelines of the party enabled women and children from CAD-member communities such as Badia, Badagry, and Mile 2, to showcase their crafts. Local designers put together ensembles that visitors might want to wear over the Christmas season, as well as fashions that guests can buy. The event also provided an opportunity for community members to network, sell and advertise their wares and skills. S4C and CAD representatives took turns to sensitize the children on several mechanisms that afford citizens an opportunity to ventilate their grievances and demand reforms. Business concepts and skill possibilities that can help the local economy to grow were discussed. Beyond dancing, singing, and eating together, the children participated in karaoke and quiz competitions which displayed their knowledge of current and political affairs in the country. Winners received awards and prizes.
S4C and CAD Christmas party is actually more than a party. Through this annual event, S4C and CAD have worked assidously to ensure that the campaign for housing justice leaves no one behind.